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Kickstarter Preview – Empty Space

Empty Space is a set collection card game about exploring the vastness of space and, ultimately, landing a rocket on an exoplanet.

It is currently live on Kickstarter. The campaign is asking for less than $2,000 US. That is a very modest goal, and one that they should meet. This is a very cool game.

Empty Space doesn’t have a board. Instead, you deal out an array of cards from the deck in whatever shape you want. It is best to start with a 4 x 6 grid with 4 exoplanet cards on one side, but you (or your kids!) can get wild with it and create all kinds of cool shapes.

On their turn, each player has a choice to either research or explore.

  • Researching consists of drawing cards from a deck blindly or choosing from a pair of revealed cards (similarly to Ticket to Ride).
  • Exploring consists of attempting to move your probe or rocket onto and across the various cards that on the array you created at the beginning of the game.

You’re trying to do a number of things by choosing between those steps and you need to balance them carefully.

  • All of the cards in the array start face down, with the exception of a few that are chosen at the beginning of the game. Players discard non-matched pairs of cards to peek at the cards or flip them over.
  • Building a probe for exploration and a rocket to eventually fly to the exoplanet you discovered requires discarding sets of four matching colored cards.
  • You can “shape the universe” and block your opponent or help yourself by discarding three matched cards. This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest decisions you’ll make as a player. You really have to be careful messing with your opponents because it can bit you in the end by making your own path more complicated.

Our whole family enjoyed Empty Space for different reasons. My oldest enjoyed the map variety and has suggested a whole bunch of differently shaped arrays. My youngest likes the ease of exploration (and messing with her brothers by putting black holes in their path). I just like a simple game that all of us can play together without any real difficulty.

Our friends at the Stay at Home Gamersgot their hands on Empty Space as well! I was able to watch their family of four play the game on a live stream. Their experience confirmed my thoughts. Their kids loved the experience and were chattering the whole time.

I love how easy it is to modify the difficulty of Empty Space. We can make it a little easier when playing with the kids and increase the difficulty when playing with only adults.

Darcy – Stay at Home Gamers

I agree with Darcy on this one. One of Empty Space’s strengths is that is plays well among different age groups. Younger kids can play it together and enjoy it without much intervention from parents or older siblings. Families with mixed skill levels can enjoy it as well.

The campaign will be live on Kickstarter for a little while longer and is definitely worth a look. Head on over!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Kickstarter Preview – Dungeon Drop

I’m known as one of the family gaming guys. So, naturally, I’m sent and shown a lot of games that purport to be family friendly and accessible to younger gamers.

A lot of the games we see attempt to take complex game types like dungeon crawlers, RPGs, dexterity games, etc and eschew some of the mechanics or components to simplify the experience. This approach works wonders because most kids love to play games and just need a few obstacles cleared out of their way in order to really enjoy themselves.

The Game!

Dungeon Drop achieves this simplicity in an elegant and clever way: it skips the entire concept of a game board.Look. I know what you’re saying. How, exactly, do they do that?

Honestly, the answer is so simple you are going to be embarrassed that you didn’t think of it on your own. (I know I am!) – They skip the board part entirely.

This is an animated gif illustrating the rules of the game.
This is literally the entire game.

The titular “Dungeon” in Dungeon Drop is created by dropping an assortment of colored cubes onto the play surface. Each colored cube represents a different object ranging from grey pillars (which help form the rooms) to orange keys, and green Boblins. (No. I didn’t spell that wrong.)

On their turn, each player sprinkles a few more cubes into the playing field to mix the dungeon up a bit, uses a player power based on their race or class, and “loots a room” by choosing three grey pillars in the play area and collecting all of the cubes inside the triangle that creates.

This simple gameplay loop can be taught in a few minutes and gameplay is fast. My first demo with a member of the Phase Shift Games staff took place between ordering our sandwiches at a restaurant and those sandwiches arriving. Experienced players will cruise through a game in ten minutes.

Don’t let that simplicity concern you though. The race/class combinations are enough to add variety to a game with a fixed board. The fact that the “board” changes every game based on how the cubes bounce is a bonus!

The Downside

Dungeon Drop was a fun game to play, but there is one unavoidable pitfall that you encounter when playing it with kids. Building the dungeon required dropping a bunch of tiny pieces onto the playing surface. One miscalculation when a younger player does the initial drop can lead to a HUGE dungeon, a big mess (as cubes go flying everywhere), and a challenging play experience without a yardstick.

The rules give you guidance on how to avoid it, but the risk is there regardless. I highly recommend that families add the additional house rule that oldest player at the table do the initial drop. (Trust me.)

The Bottom Line

Dungeon Drop’s asking price on Kickstarter is $16 (with a $22 deluxe edition). That’s a very good price when you take into account the amount of game in this tiny package. It’s definitely worth a look.

FCC Disclosure: A prototype copy of Dungeon Drop was provided for the purposes of this review.

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Kickstarter of the Week: Big Easy Busking
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/weirdgiraffegames/big-easy-busking-0?ref=discovery&term=big%20easy%20busking

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc. 

Big Easy Busking is an area control game for 1-5 players that plays in about 45 minutes for ages 8+

What is the elevator pitch? 

Big Easy Busking is an area control game for 1-5 players about being the best street musician in New Orleans. The game is played over three days, where players choose which locations to play their set of songs. It takes time to play a song, so players decide on their next turn whether they’re going to use all of their energy at the location or to only use some of it to save the rest for later songs. If a player matches the mood of the people with the song that they’re playing, they can get bonus tips!

Escalating Rounds: The game starts with three locations players can play at, but by the final round, there’s five locations so players have to choose where to play wisely! Engaging Gameplay: Players determine how much energy to allocate to each location after seeing how other players play, so players pay attention to what happens between their turns. Thematic Actions: Songs require differing amounts of energy from musicians and players are rewarded greatly for playing the songs that the crowd wants to hear.

When is your Kickstarter running until?

June 6th.

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete? 

It is live on Kickstarter! Click here to check it out!

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game? 

World’s Fair 1893

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game? 

I’m the publisher, but I signed this game because it’s a really unique take on area control. In the game, you start playing your song at a crowd of your choice, but song playing takes time. So you don’t make a decision on how much energy you’re putting into the song until your next turn. This means that you have an idea of what your opponents are doing, but there’s always someone that surprises you. This makes the game so entertaining and replayable.

What was your design process like? 

I designed the solo portion of the game. My process for this always starts with trying to figure out the player interaction in the game and the different player types. Once I get an idea of the player types in the game, I try to create a different Robot that represents each player type.

I try to make the solo mode really easy to play, but still surprising. So I made the songs that Robot plays a deck of all the other player cards in the game. This created a lot of variety and it wouldn’t be known what the Robot would do, even though the Robot’s actions are easy to make happen. I then play the game over and over, to get the different difficulties right. Then I make sure that each Robot is different enough, easy to follow. Players can master each robot if you play enough and try enough different strategies.

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

Big Easy Busking is a truly unique and player friendly experience. With the wide player count and quick and intuitive gameplay, it should be a great fit for most families. Adding in the unique theme, friendly take on area control, and large amount of player interaction, it gets everyone engaged in what is happening, but not in the negative or attacking way, like a lot of games that have player interaction. 

How long has this game been in development?

Around 3 years.

What obstacles did you encounter making this game? 

I think the biggest obstacle I encountered while making this game was trying to find an artist. I really wanted to find an artist from New Orleans and I asked around and did a lot of searching, and ended up finding an artist living in New Orleans that I really liked! She agreed to do the artwork, but then had some sickness in the family that came up and wasn’t able to work on the project. I finally found an artist that I liked. Unfortunately, it was after months of searching and required going outside the New Orleans region. The final artwork seems to be really representative of the area, though, which I’m very happy about.

What did your first prototype look like? 

Cardstock and numbers! I tend to print out my prototypes, as my hand writing is terrible and even I can’t read it sometimes.

Why did you get into making games? 

I first got into games as a creative outlet, but I was hooked once I made my first prototype and saw how much fun the people that played the game had. I love being able to be part of the reason that people have more fun and I like to think I’m improving people’s lives this way.

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

Follow Weird Giraffe Games on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, and Board Game Geek or visit our website

We also have a Facebook Group called the Weird Giraffe Games Insiders where you can learn all the new things about Weird Giraffe Games, participate in contests, and earn prizes! 

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Kickstarter of the Week: Crumbs

I got a first look at Crumbs at the Boston Festival of Independent Games where it won Best In Show. There was always a crowd at the table to play and near the end of the day I was able to squeeze in and see it. It was worth the wait to see this cute park themed game. Crumbs is live on Kickstarter and will run until April 21st. Check out the Kickstarter here.

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc.

Crumbs is an area control/take-that game that takes 30-60 minutes to play. It is recommended for ages 10 and up.

What is the elevator pitch?

Those looking to crush their friends in a winner-takes-all battle for superiority and control will be delighted to find themselves duking it out in a fresh new setting: your ordinary city park. Players take on the role of either the ducks, pigeons, squirrels, or chipmunks. Each group of animals provides its own special abilities while players scuffle over the spaces in the park. Players try to gain the best position before the big crumb drop in which 20 crumbs are dropped onto the board, spreading out at random and turning the tides of power for better, or for worse.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

Tuesday March 26th

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete?

Complete! Of course, there’s the never ending stream of minor tweaks here and there when striving for perfection. But the game is in a really great place and is ready for production.

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game?

I want to say Crumbs is one-of-a-kind (and I truly believe it is!)

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game?

Well one day my friend was just like “I like pigeons. I want to make a game about pigeons.” You see, pigeons are a truly underrated animal, they’re always getting the short end of the stick. Everyone is always dismissing them as dirty sky-rats, which may have some truth to it (perhaps rats are a bit underrated as well, ey?). Well we came up with a basic concept for how the game would work, and Crumbs quickly became all about delivering a ferocious battling game in the cute unassuming guise of everyday park animals. The juxtaposition has really spoken to a lot of people.

What was your design process like?

It started with a simple concept: city park, paved paths separating the territories, crumbs dropping onto the board and animals fighting over the territories to get them. That was it! It just took a lot of trial and error and a lot of iterations and rule changes to get the game juuuuust right.

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

It’s FUN. You can set it up quickly, play in under an hour, and have blast demolishing your friends and family as a cute little chipmunk.

How long has this game been in development?

About 3 whole years!

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

So many. In game design, every time you change one little thing, the effect ripples through every aspect of it.

What did your first prototype look like?

It looked like the game Dominant Species because most of the pieces (including the box!) were from Dominant Species (fitting name, huh?). We utilized it’s wooden pieces and little wooden cubes, and drew our map directly onto the inside of the game cover with pencil. Back then there was no plastic fence pieces to keep the crumbs inside the game board, rather, we had the game board sitting inside of the bottom lid of a game box. It was so hard to see inside though! One 3D printer and many iterations later and I had a prototype as near to the real thing as could be!

Why did you get into making games?

I love playing games. What better way to spend my time than creating something I love! I want to make a variety of games that appeal to everyone. Ideas are constantly flowing and being bounced around for new and exciting projects.

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

To follow the progression of the game you can sign up for their email list at /https://www.tidbitgames.com/

Tidbit Games website: https://www.tidbitgames.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tidbitgamesllc/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tidbit.games/


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Kickstarter Preview: Alliance The Card Game

Card battling games have been a popular genre for decades (arguably as long as playing cards have existed). We have seen countless variations on similar themes. A handful of those variations succeed and others have fallen short. Alliance The Card Game is one of the few that rise above the rest.




When I first started writing reviews I was taught to frame my review as a comparison of execution vs. expectations. This way I would avoid comparing a game to others in the genre. In essence, I am looking to compare the game to an idealized version of itself. (Please forgive the navel-gazing. I promise I’m getting to the point.) Alliance the Card game succeeds because it does exactly what it promises that it should do. It is a straight forward card game that is easy to set up and tear down. It is also, most importantly, a game that is so simple to learn that young kids can take it out and teach each other to play with no outside intervention.

That last point is super critical for me. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been pulled away from another game, or from another activity to have to walk my younger kids through games or to help them teach their friends how to play. Alliance solves for that problem by being simple enough to be taught by a kindergartener.

This ease of use doesn’t come at the expense of quality either. Players are treated to an interesting battle game with some strategic decisions to be made. The cards feature amazing art in a new, but familiar, sword and sorcery setting.

It is worth mentioning that this Kickstarter is for a Starter Kit that will only feature two armies. The intention is to design and sell more cards and card sets is expansions that will help deepen the strategy of the game.

Alliance The Card Game plays with two players ages 6+. Each player plays with a 35 card deck that includes a Leader, generals, and various warriors. Play begins by placing the leaders in their respective places on the game board. Players then take turns taking cards from the top of their deck and placing them in one of five spaces towards the center of the board.

The real action takes place once the front rows of each side of the board have been filled. Players take turns activating two of their five active creatures to attack creatures on the other side of the board. Activation is straight forward; you choose a character and then roll a metal die. If the number that comes up matches an attack number on the card, then damage is dealt to the target.

When cards are defeated they are moved to the slain pile. Each player can only replace one card per turn so the goal is to put the pressure on and get ahead. Once all five spaces have been cleared you have a chance to attack the enemy leader.

Conclusion

If you back Alliance the Card Game at $39 on Kickstarter, then you will get the base game. There is a $44 pledge level that includes the designer’s autograph.

If you and your family are looking for a straight forward card battling game set in a sword and sorcery setting, then I think this will be a great addition to your collection.


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Animal Kingdoms a beautiful area control and hand management game. It is the first game from Galactic Raptor Games, which is the joint company of veteran game publishers Carla Kopp and Dan Letzring.   They applied their skills in game publishing to select Animal Kingdom by Steven Aramini as the first game.  This game has stunning art and is one to check out here on Kickstarter.  Their game is fully funded and you can get a copy for $29.

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc. 

Animal Kingdoms is a hand-management and area control game for 1-5 players, ages 8+, playable in 45 minutes.

What is the elevator pitch?

In Animal Kingdoms, each player takes on the role of a house leader, battling to gain control of the five kingdoms. Cards in your hand represent noble beasts that have pledged their allegiance to you. Over the course of three ages, you must deploy your beasts to the various territories – making sure that you adhere to each kingdom’s decree – to try and improve your influential position in the kingdoms. The house that gains the most influence by the end of the third age is declared the one true leader of the realm.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

It went live January 8th and runs to February 1st.

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete? 

We are very close to complete, it is basically done.

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game? 

Ethnos, Worlds Fair

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game? 

We saw potential during the pitching of this game for something that could connect with many levels of gamers, hardcore gamers, families, kids, adults, anyone. Games with a fresh gameplay style, simple rule set but depth of strategy are a must publish when you come across them!

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

It has a very simple core rule-set ensuring understanding for gamers of all skill levels but it also requires a lot of planning and in game strategy ensuring that everyone at the table can get out of the game what they put into it!

How long has this game been in development? 

1.5 years

What obstacles did you encounter making this game? 

Our biggest challenge was dealing with tie-breakers. We tried many different methods from placement tie-breakers, to war-style card playing, to friendly ties. This was probably our biggest hurdle in development.

What did your first prototype look like? 

It was pretty good actually. Steven Aramini is the designer and he works hard at making very playable and intuitive prototypes. He hand crafts quality components and makes sure to leave a lasting impression with his works.

Why did you get into making games? 

To encourage family and friends to have face-to-face interaction at the table with games!
What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?
Although this is Galactic Raptor’s first game, the company is formed by Carla Kopp of Weird Giraffe and Dan Letzring of Letiman Games. Between us, we have already produced 12 games combined for our own companies.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Dreams of Tomorrow is a beautiful game that is live on Kickstarter now.  The game has fully funded and is available for $22 plus shipping. The Kickstarter is live until November 8, 2018.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/weirdgiraffegames/dreams-of-tomorrow?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=dreams%20of%20tomorrow

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc.

Dreams of Tomorrow, set collection and shifting action spaces, 45 minutes, 8+, 1-6 players. Dreams of Tomorrow is a competitive set collection game about weaving dreams, manipulating action spaces, and careful timing of abilities.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/weirdgiraffegames/dreams-of-tomorrow?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=dream%20of%20tomorrow

What is the elevator pitch?

Players are dream engineers trying to save their present by sending dreams to the past. Longer dream sequences that are better connected have a higher chance of changing the future, but there’s also certain elements of dreams that are more impactful than others. Dreams can also grant the dream engineer certain abilities, so all these aspects must be weighed when choosing what kind of dream sequence to create. The last round triggers when any one dream engineer has added five dreams to their dream sequence.  Can you shape a dream so powerful it can change the world?

When is your Kickstarter going live?

The Kickstarter went live October 15th and runs through November 8, 2018

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete?

Pretty close!

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game?

I haven’t played many other games with rondels that are actually published….

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game?

I signed and developed this game. I signed it because the shifting actions spaces (rondel) seemed really unique and I had liked the original theme (building totem poles). This game is also really positive and family friendly, with quick turns that matter, which are all things that I really enjoy in a game.

What was your design process like?

I’ll answer from the development process side. My development process took a lot of iteration; first balance the numbers, then to balance and create new abilities for the dreams to have. The game when signed had only one way to manipulate the action spaces and I really pumped up this aspect so that if you want to do this and you have the resources, you can. I also rethemed the game to be dreams and this was actually a really easy experience, as the mechanics seemed to fit even better with the new theme. In general, my development process is playtesting, making a change, and playtesting again, over and over again, until I think that everything about the game is perfect.

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

It packs in a lot of replayability with two game modes (Pleasant Night and Troubled Night), the ability to add in a robot player to add in more challenge, and the fact that the game plays different at all the different player counts.  

How long has this game been in development?

Over a year.

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

The original game was based on building a totem pole. While searching for an illustrator for the game, I learned that that theme was pretty offensive to Native Americans. I spent about a few days thinking about different themes and how they would fit with the mechanics and eventually got to Dreams and Time Travel. Now,  the theme and everything fits like it was designed that way! Another obstacle was trying to design a solo experience that had just the right amount of player interaction and depth without too much overhead. I ended up creating one good robot player, then making changes to make it a bit harder, then a lot harder, to end up with three levels of difficulty with the robot player. A third problem to solve was the Troubled Night mode; I received feedback during a few playtest sessions that having a game about dreams should incorporate nightmares, as well. Figuring out how to make the Night Mare work well and be thematic enough was hard.  Too much disruption really irritated gamers, but not enough didn’t feel enough like a Nightmare.

What did your first prototype look like?

The first prototype I received comprised of sleeved tarot cards with a lot of permanent marker on it.  As the designer knew, things were going to change and that was one way to have some art on the cards but not have to make new cards everytime.

Why did you get into making games?

I went to a panel at a convention about making games and became inspired to start creating my own.

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

My website is weirdgiraffegames.com Twitter is weirdgiraffes To check out the Kickstarter click here.
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Penguin Slap! is an adorable game I played at the Boston Festival of Independent Games.  The game fully funded on Kickstarter with the campaign running until October 28, 2018.  It only costs $15, plus shipping, to get a copy of the game. 

 

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc.

Penguin SLAP! It’s a take-that style card game for 2-4 players, ages 9 and up. Players need basic reading comprehension to play. My name is Rich, and I co-developed the game with my partner Jewlz.

What is the elevator pitch?

In Penguin SLAP! each player assumes the role of a hungry penguin hoarding fish. There are lots of goofy penguins to choose from. There’s a secret agent penguin, an emperor penguin, a polar bear dressed as a penguin, an alien dressed as a penguin, and more! To win the game, you want to be the last penguin holding fish cards. You can make other players drop fish by slapping them with your fish cards (no physical slapping required.) But you’ve got to be careful, if your opponent has a “counter” fish, they can reverse your slap back to you! The game is casual enough to play with younger audiences while also having enough strategy to entertain more advanced players.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

It’s live NOW until Oct. 28th. Check out the Kickstarter right here.  Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete?The game is complete, except for any additions that we’ll add as a result of the kickstarter.

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game?

We tend to describe our game as “super” Uno but backwards. In Uno you want to run out of cards first, in Penguin SLAP! you want to be the last player with cards. Our game also gives players more strategic options, which gives players more control over their fate. Since fish cards are colored on both sides (each color doing something different) and each player has two draw piles, players choose which pile (and which color of fish) to draw. Penguin SLAP! also has an equipping mechanic which adds to the strategy. Green fish can be equipped in front of a player and later are used to augment other cards. We’ve also seen players get “Mario-Kart syndrome” with our game, where it no longer matters if they win or lose. They just want to get back at that one player that blue-shelled (or slapped) them earlier on.

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game?

We’ve played some longer, more strategy-intensive games and, while enjoyable, sometimes a player gets a clear lead and they can be hard to catch up to. We’ve also played shorter, more casual games and found that they lack the depth that makes them interesting beyond the first few play-throughs. So we wanted something short and fun that had enough strategy to be interesting, with enough balance so that players who get a strong lead can get reeled in quickly and players that lag behind have a chance to catch up (If you run out of cards you can draw back in on your next turn.)

Penguin SLAP! games generally end very close, often the winning player wins by a single card. Each time you play you can choose a different penguin persona card to represent you, which will give you different abilities and influence your strategy. Games feel engaging and since they’re short, it’s easy to replay again and again, trying different personas. Besides, who doesn’t like penguins?

What was your design process like?

We started out with cut up sheets of computer paper. To color our fish we colored the backs of the paper with highlighter. (We couldn’t find any markers, but we had 4 different colors of highlighter. At first the cards were simple and said “+1 fish” or “+2 fish” or “-2 fish.” Once the mechanics were solid we brainstormed the penguin narrative. We’ve been playtesting for over two years now at game cafes and in Boston as members of the Boston Game Makers Guild. (Shameless plug! If you’re designing a game I HIGHLY recommend finding a Meet-up group of game designers to play with. You get GREAT feedback.) Jewlz does all the art for the game. Her amazing art is all over our YouTube page (our username is “Penguin SLAP!” Check out her speedpaints here!)

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

Penguin SLAP! aims to be entertaining and engaging from start to finish. Our game doesn’t implement any player-elimination (at least, until the very end when someone wins) and younger players seem to love the goofy story (Only penguins live on Tuxedo Island, so to get in on the prime fishing area other animals disguise themselves to blend in. All the penguins fall for the disguises except this crazy-haired conspiracy theorist penguin who wears a tin-foil hat.) The game is playable casually with kids or more aggressively with older players. The gameplay is short enough and dynamic enough that it can be played as a starter game before a longer game night, or repeatedly throughout the game night.

How long has this game been in development?

Two and a half wonderful years.

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

This is tricky. Game-mechanics-wise there were a few, but designing those out is part of the fun of game design! Finding a company that affordably prints on nice cards without the image drifting too much has been a challenge.

What did your first prototype look like?

Cut up sheets of white printer paper with pencil on one side and highlighter on the other.

Why did you get into making games?

We like creating things! For our main jobs Jewlz and I do visual effects for film (Look up Rich Hardy Jr. and Julianne Holzschuh on IMDb to find us!) Jewlz is an also an AMAZING artist and I do programming, so we were going to create a video game together, but I figured a card game would be easier to prototype and would help us understand game design better before we jumped into the deep end.

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

We’ve got more info on our Kickstarter page, which is live NOW!  We’re adding in extra penguins and art to the game right now, thanks to our AWESOME backers! We’re listening to the community as much as possible and we’re trying to respond to every comment we get.

We have a website at penguinslap.com. On our website you can read about the penguins in our game and you can download free puzzle pages and coloring pages. (Our puzzle page is a “publication” from Tuxedo Island called “The Tuxedo Telegraph.” It’s like the newspaper that the penguins read. We also have an email list that we occasionally give things away on, you can subscribe here if you’re interested.

Our YouTube channel is full of videos of Jewlz painting the artwork from our game. It’s mesmerizing to watch, and easy to get lost in.

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter as penguinslapgame.

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Kickstarter of the Week: Clear the Decks!

Naval warfare has never been so exciting.  In Clear the Decks! players are working together battling an enemy ship with their own navel ship and crew. Clear the Decks is designed by Christopher Pinyan of Crispy Games Co.

The Engaged Family Gaming team has had the pleasure to see Clear the Decks evolve over the past year.  Our first look at this game was at the 2017 Connecticut Festival of Independent GamesClear The Decks was again at the 2018 Connecticut Festival of Independent Games.

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc. 

Clear the Decks! is a 1-4 player cooperative card game depicting ship to ship combat in the age of fighting sail. For ages 10 and up.

What is the elevator pitch? 

On the high seas, you have met your enemy. By yourself or with shipmates, you each have 3 gun crews using different ammunition, tactics, officers, and marines to attack the enemy ship’s guns, crew and structures. Can you smash enough leaks in the enemy ship before they have destroyed all of your cannons? It’s time to beat to quarters and Clear the Decks!

When is your Kickstarter going live?

The Kickstarter went live on July 17, 2018, and runs through August 16th.

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete? 

All the line art for the game is complete. We have a couple weeks’ worth of coloring still to do and will provide updates over the course of the campaign. Some of the stretch goal cards are already designed and just waiting for enough funding to include them in the game. We estimate that by end of August we will be ready to send to printer for production review.

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game? 

The closest I would consider is Castle Panic. It is also cooperative (though there still is a “winner”), there is the concept of impending danger and you have to come up with certain combinations of card and location in order to attack your target.

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game?

The movie Master and Commander was always a favorite. I got hooked on reading the book series, which then led to reading several non-fiction books on the US and British navies during the late 17 and early 1800’s. Reading through the sea battles, watching them in the Horatio Hornblower series on BBC made me of puzzle combinations – which cannon, which ammunition, which part of the ship, all the other issues to deal with during a battle and all of the different people on a ship – with different roles and how they all had to work together to be successful. That sounded like a great game to me. It had to be co-op and I didn’t want semi-co op where people are working together but ultimately still looking out for themselves to the possible detriment of the team. I love to see families sit down and work together, sometimes the parents coaching the kids, but plenty of times the kids getting excited and telling mom or dad what they should do. I loved the theme and it made designing now promoting the game fun. Sprinkling in a little history to maybe get people interested in reading up on the time period is a possible bonus.

What was your design process like? 

Reading and taking notes on gun sizes, the different ammunition types and what they were used for. Lots of notes on the different parts of a ship. Reading about the different other things – good and bad – that might randomly happen during a battle lead me to create Event and Fortune cards. Tricks of combat became player tactics cards and of course – all the different people became Crew cards. Then allowing myself some creative license to be less restrictive on what combinations would be allowed to attack certain cards. Some mathematics to determine a good ratio of certain cards in the game (Round shot vs Chain shot for example). Then on to gameplay – lots of testing and making sure the tension remains to the end and putting in some resource management requirements – saving the right cards for the right part of the game, but keeping the temptation there to get the unwary to use them at the wrong time and jeopardize a victory. Wanting the game available as a solitaire, and for younger and older families generated the concept of different sizes and difficulties of the ship – making lots of opportunities for interesting play among different age groups.

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

Work together for a change! Show how teamwork and giving can help everyone succeed together. Can’t we ALL be happy and have fun on family game night? If we do – then maybe getting people interested in another family game night is easier. This is a way to get kids interested in this topic.  It may put them down the path to developing their own reading habit. This was not the original goal of the whole game process, but if happens to be an unintended side effect – great.

How long has this game been in development? 

About 2 and a half years.  Around Feb 2015 when I started evolving the mechanics of an earlier game I was working on for 18 months previously into this one.

What obstacles did you encounter making this game? 

Number one is time! With a day job and two teenagers its tough to get even an hour of uninterrupted time to focus on something. On a personal level, getting outside the comfort zone.  First, to go out and show it to playtesters. Then take the feedback of something you worked so hard on – without taking offense. That is a real personal growth opportunity.

What did your first prototype look like? 

Blank cards I ordered online that I drew on with markers. On the back, I got a tall ship ink stamp from a scrapbooking friend and red and blue ink pads for the two card types.

Why did you get into making games? 

I grew up playing games – at home, at the park during the summer. I discovered local game conventions and once the indie game craze started – I thought I could do it.

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

Clear the Decks is driven by theme, and the theme is driven by my passion for it. I worked in a lot of little details that I love to share during demos. I hope people will discover on their own as the play the game. Inspiring people to search for a couple of my references, maybe more people become interested in an amazing period and some amazing people in history.
You can learn more about Clear the Decks! by checking out my website www.crispygamesco.com
or by following me on Instagram and Facebook at Crispygamesco.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Your Family Rocks! is a family /party style game by Ludyo.  It is a new type of tabletop game that transforms your family photos into real cards in a real game. By merging photography and tabletop games, “Your Family Rocks!” lets you not only look at your photos but to play them as well. They took the time to answer some questions for us about their campaign. Take a look below and check out the campaign! It is live on Kickstarter now until July 13, 2018. 

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc.

Your Family Rocks! is a family /party style game.  The playtime is 20 to 200 minutes and age range is 10+. Your family photos are transformed into real cards, which makes it really unique.

What is the elevator pitch?

Don’t just look at your photos…play them! Your Family Rocks puts your family memories at the center of the board game. The game uses your own family photos as the 60 “family cards” in the game, making it the first your-photos-transformed-into-cards board game. Your photos play the central role in the game, influencing your strategy, your score, your control over pieces, and in the end, how the game plays out.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

The Kickstarter went live June 12, 2018 and runs until July 13th. 

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete?

All production and logistic issues have been taken care of. We were waiting for a couple of reviews to strengthen our Kickstarter campaign page and completed a promotional campaign before the project launched.

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game?

As far as we know, this type of customized tabletop game has never been explored. Some dynamics though might resemble other card dynamics (storybuilding, theme selection, card association,…) but we have had no comments about it reminding players of a specific game.

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game?

1) Purpose Reason: The most important reason is the meaning associated with the concept. I think that fostering family moments based on their unique memories has value per se.

2) Uniqueness Reason: There is no such type of game yet.

3) Market Reason: If the concept is well communicated and gets track among the board game and parenting communities the potential can be quite interesting, we might expand the same concept for other types of memories (“Your Friends Rock!” for example)

What was your design process like?

Longer than expected! 😉 It started a gift for my family and the initial idea was to play our memories. As time went by, and after some plays with family and friends, I have decided to try a Kickstarter and this implied some changes. I had to simplify the mechanics in order to reach younger audiences and had to cut on some customization elements we had (people faces on meeples and family name on discs). I also had to combine the game design with the game art to make it more appealing.

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

It’s their photos, their memories, their game. Families take tons of photos and they look at it, but being able to play them, while remembering good times and building relations is a different thing. The best reason is: by playing their past memories we believe families will strengthen their future relations.  To transform photos into real game cards, you just need to upload 60 photos to the Ludyo platform, and we’ll turn them into real game cards. We will assemble the game and deliver it at your doorstep.

How long has this game been in development?

3 years

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

Having the game dynamics/mechanisms closed was the first one. But the most important issue was logistics. The current supply chain of the board game industry is not capable of providing this type of customized solution so we had to make sure we were able to assemble potentially thousands of customized games . We are now very solid on this, but it took as a long time to get to it.

What did your first prototype look like?

Very different from the current version. The design was completely different, the mechanics were more complex and the game components were more customized than they are now. (as explained on “What was your design process like?”)

Why did you get into making games?

The inner desire to make a game has been inside for a long time. When I was 20 I tried making a board game about guards and prisoners, but I failed. Then I created a deck building game for standard 52 deck cards. I reached a new level when I decided to make a board game as a Christmas gift for my family. Family and friends liked it and gave me the incentive to try a Kickstarter. I am continuously provoked with new ideas for board games through daily conversations or simply walking on the street. It just comes naturally, which I believe is a sign that I should at least give it a try.

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

Feel free to visit our Facebook page where you can find a couple of videos explaining the concept and how to play: https://www.facebook.com/YourFamilyRocks/ One point we have been asked many times: Why Kickstarter? Kickstarter is a good way to 1) test market acceptance of such new concept 2) clarify who our authentic demand is (those who cannot not try the game) 3) global reach and brand association with the concept and 3) support the project development only if succeed (no production costs if the project is not succeeded) 

We hope that, by playing their memories, families will strengthen future relationships. This has always been our guiding star.


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

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